A general method is presented for determining the dynamic torsional/axial response of linear structures composed of either tapered bars or shafts to transient excitations. The method consists of formulating and solving the dynamic problem in the Laplace transform domain by the finite element method and obtaining the response by a numerical inversion of the transformed solution. The derivation of the torsional and axial stiffness matrices is based on the exact solution of the transformed governing equation of motion, and it consequently leads to the exact solution of the problem. The solution permits treatment of the most practical cases of linear tapered bars and shafts, and employs modeling of structures with only one element per member which reduces the number of degrees of freedom involved. The effects of external viscous or internal viscoelastic damping are also taken into account.